"I think it would be very good if any project, not only in our country, could follow this standard," said Lao Minister of Energy and Mines Borsaykham Vongdara.
He said the Nam Theun II project was a good example of a highstandard environmental impact assessment (EIA) for development projects.
The World Bank, which is the main backer of the project, required the investors to allocate 10 per cent of $1 billion investment cost for environmental protection and social resettlement programmes.
The developers had to resettle more than 6,000 people from the area to be inundated to new sites to live and farm, as well as provide them facilities to improve their lives.
Nam Theun II is perhaps the most recent example in the region of responsible hydropower development, said Ian Porter, World Bank country director for Thailand and Laos.
Borsaykham was in Thailand yesterday for a World Banksponsored highlevel forum on LaoThai partnership in sustainable hydropower development.
Thai Energy Minister Piyasvasti Amranand also attended the meeting to project Thailand's demand for electricity from Laos, its main supplier. Thailand signed a memorandum of understanding to purchase 5,000MW from Laos by 2015, and proposed to buy an additional 2,000MW after that period, he said.
Nam Theun II will provide 995MW out of an installed capacity 1,088MW to Thailand by 2009. There are many other hydropower and coalfuelled projects in the pipeline, though environmentalists have expressed concern about their impact on the environment and society.
Projects to be built to supply power to Thailand are the Nam TheunHinboun (extended phase), Nam Ngum III, Nam Theun I and Nam Ngiep I dams, and the Hong Sa coalfuelled plant. Thailand will sign the purchase agreements with these projects by the end of this year, Piyasvasti said.
Borsaykham said his government would follow the rules and standards set by the World Bank for the Nam Theun II as criteria for environment and social protection that investors and financiers of other projects would have to comply with.
Laos has the capacity to generate as much as 20,000MW of electricity by building more hydropower and coalfuelled projects. Vietnam and Cambodia are its other important customers.
Xaypaseuth Phomsoupha, deputy head of the Laos Energy Ministry's energy promotion department said his government had commissioned several investors, including from China, to conduct feasibility studies for at least four dams on the main Mekong River. These are the Don Sahong, Pak Lai, Pak Bang and Xayabouri dams, he said.
by Supalak G Khundee